Cambrian: Opinion

It’s a little late on the calendar, but fall is finally here in Santa Lucia Mountains

Autumn foliage adds color to top of a ridge in the Santa Lucia Mountains
Autumn foliage adds color to top of a ridge in the Santa Lucia Mountains Special to The Cambrian

Sunlight illuminates the underbelly of dawn’s clouds. Ridgetops and canyons to the east are covered by shades of mango and raspberry. The whir of seasonal hornets is now silent. No longer a test of tolerance, midautumn is such a relief from oppressive hot weather and those obnoxious and aggressive stinging/biting insects of summer into Indian summer!

A zephyr turns the peaceful stillness into a clatter of California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) leaves. As they float and sway from the towering deciduous trees toward the ground, the leaves collide and rustle. Like a shower of snowflakes, the fallen foliage blankets the forest floor. Atop dull brown woodland duff, it piles high and creates a lofty layer of yellow, orange and red that rivals the morning sky for its influence on serenity.

In an area that is dangerously vulnerable to wildfire, November in these Santa Lucia Mountains is when the disquieting volume of life begins to diminish. After an uproarious summer and before the whispers of winter, there’s an agreeable hum of tranquil autumn activity. Apples are sauced and canned. Walnuts are cracked and bagged. Firewood is split and stored. The cupboards, as well as the dog, cat, and chicken feed bins are filled.

A drawer is stocked with flashlight and lantern batteries. Buckets, spare tarps and rope are at hand. This year there is a supply of extra everything stowed away for those predicted rainy days. Heck, even the gray squirrels and redheaded woodpeckers have accumulated and deposited their abundant winter stashes.

Along with cooler weather and sufficient preparatory efforts comes a welcome sense of comfort and security. Weariness wanes. Unlike the anxiety associated with the extreme possibility of wildfire, deep, contented sighs are probable when we’re as ready as humanly possible for El Niño, otherwise known as the Christ child (due to periodic Pacific Ocean warming near South American that often occurs around Christmas).

Not that fire season is ever really “over” anymore, but there comes a point when a body needs a break from burdensome worry in order to truly allow for health and well-being. For some full-time residents in the backcountry of Cambria, fall provides that respite. For others, a Linn’s pumpkin pie smothered in whipped cream helps!

Regardless, the riches of autumn seem to bring out the best in people. Thankfulness waxes.

Autumn is an attitude adjustment that reminds us how grateful we are that we live where the heavens have kissed the earth.

Michele Oksen’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at